Israel, Cyprus and Greece forge closer ties in turbulent region

Israel, Greece and Cyprus joined forces to face "unprecedented" opportunities and challenges, including gas reserves and security, in the volatile region, their leaders said Thursday at what they called a "historic" tripartite summit in Nicosia.

Following a number of bilateral agreements signed in Israel Wednesday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the two travelled to Cyprus for trilateral meetings with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

The three partners discussed a possible joint pipeline to export eastern Mediterranean natural gas to Europe, as well as an electricity cable under the seabed. 

Tsipras said Greece could become the bridge for transporting energy from Israel and Cyprus to Europe.

"The constant problem of security and fighting terrorism," also topped the agenda in "a region that is increasingly volatile and plagued by the forces of radical Islam," Netanyahu said.

"I believe we can be much stronger if we embrace these challenges together," Netanyahu had told Tsipras in Jerusalem Wednesday.

The three eastern Mediterranean states have grown closer over the last months as violence flares in the wider region, and after natural gas fields have been discovered in the eastern Mediterranean basin, which they seek to exploit jointly. 

Over the last years, Israel has also become estranged from its former ally Turkey.

"This cooperation aims for peace and stability and is not directed against anyone," Anastasiades insisted. The Cypriot leader said the summit ushered in a "new area in the relations of our countries."

Netanyahu said the "three eastern Mediterranean democracies" would tackle "unprecedented" joint challenges and opportunities in a turbulent region.

"Greece is a dependable friend of Israel and a traditional friend of the Palestinian people. We're hopeful talks lead to two states coexisting safely, peacefully," Tsipras said in an apparent response to critics who had charged that the rapprochement with Israel was a "betrayal" of the Palestinians.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process collapsed in April 2014.

Last update: Thu, 28/01/2016 - 17:24
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